Sometimes it’s easy to identify dangers to your ears: the roaring jet engine beside your ears or the bellowing equipment on the floor of a factory. It’s not hard to convince people to use ear protection when they know they will be near loud sounds. But what if there was an organic compound that was just as harmful for your hearing as too much noise? After all, if something is organic, doesn’t that necessarily mean it’s healthy for you? How could something that’s organic be equally as bad for your hearing as loud noise?
An Organic Compound You Wouldn’t Want to Eat
To clarify, these organic compounds are not something you can get at the produce department of your grocery store nor would you want to. According to recent (and some not-so-recent) research published by European scholars, there’s a strong chance that a collection of chemicals known as organic solvents can harm your hearing even if exposure is limited and minimal. It’s important to note that, in this case, organic does not mean the type of label you see on fruit at the grocery store. In reality, the word “organic” is employed by marketers to make people believe a product isn’t harmful for them. The term organic, when pertaining to food means that the growers didn’t utilize particular chemicals. The word organic, when associated with solvents, is a term used in chemistry. Within the field of chemistry, the word organic refers to any compounds and chemicals that consist of bonds between carbon atoms. Carbon can produce a high number of molecules and therefore practical chemicals. But that doesn’t imply they aren’t potentially dangerous. Millions of workers every year work with organic solvents and they’re frequently exposed to the dangers of hearing loss while doing so.
Organic Solvents, Where do You Find Them?
Some of the following products have organic solvents:
- Degreasing chemicals
- Glues and adhesives
- Paints and varnishes
- Cleaning products
You get the point. So, this is the question, will painting (or even cleaning) your living room harm your hearing?
Hazard Associated With Organic Solvents
The more you’re subjected to these substances, according to recent research, the higher the associated dangers. So when you clean your home you will probably be fine. The most potent risk is experienced by people with the highest degree of contact, in other words, factory workers who produce or use organic solvents on a commercial scale. Ototoxicity (toxicity to the auditory system), has been demonstrated to be linked to exposure to organic substances. Lab tests that utilized animals, as well as surveys of people, have both shown this to be true. Loss of hearing in the mid frequency range can be affected when the little hair cells of the ear are damaged by solvents. Regretfully, the ototoxicity of these compounds isn’t widely recognized by company owners. An even smaller number of workers are aware of the dangers. So those workers don’t have standardized protocols to safeguard them. One thing that could really help, for example, would be standardized hearing exams for all workers who handle organic compounds on a regular basis. These hearing examinations would detect the very earliest indications of hearing loss, and workers could react accordingly.
You Have to go to Work
Periodic Hearing tests and limiting your exposure to these compounds are the most frequent suggestions. But first, you need to be conscious of the dangers before you can follow that advice. When the hazards are in plain sight, it’s not that hard. It’s obvious that you should take precautions to protect against the noise of the factory floor and any other loud noises. But when the threat is not visible as is the case for the millions of people who work with organic solvents, solutions can be more difficult to sell. Luckily, continuing research is assisting both employers and employees take a safer approach. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to try to use these products in a well-ventilated place and to wear masks. It would also be a practical plan to have your ears checked by a hearing specialist.